TOO COOL TO BE FORGOTTEN
By ALEX ROBINSON
Top Shelf Productions, 2008
125 Pages; Hardcover
GENRE(S): Fiction, Graphic Novel
Reviewed by Michael Ward
Alex Robinson—winner of the Eisner, Harvey, and Ignatz Awards—made his impact in the world of independent comics with the release of his long running Box Office Poison, a comic book series which eventually culminated in a 600-plus page slice-of-life graphic novel that depicted the lives of a ragtag group of comic book artists, historians, bookstore clerks, and others attempting to get by and find fulfillment in New York. Now, Robinson has produced a new graphic novel, Too Cool to Be Forgotten, a fine edition to the collections of comic fans who prefer their protagonists sans spandex.
Too Cool to Be Forgotten centers on the life of Andy Wicks, a bald, myopic, middle-aged man who has done his best to quit smoking—patches, nicotine gum, cold turkey—but the allure of cigarettes always brings him back to his habit. Finding himself at a dead end, he takes his wife’s advice to try some “new age mumbo jumbo” in order to help him overcome his addiction. His doctor puts him under hypnosis and, instead of finding himself thinking that he is a chicken, finds himself back in 1985 when he was 15-years old, a time during which he was a fan of Iron Maiden, had a nice stash of girly magazines, and was friends with a group of nerdy, marginalized students who, while not the complete outcasts of the school, were not among the “social elite.”
Realizing that he has been given a second chance to nip his bad habit in the bud, Andy decides to turn down the first cigarette that he will be offered at a party. Not wanting to change his future dramatically in any other way à la Back to the Future, Andy limits himself to interacting only with his old friends, but when the opportunity comes up to ask a girl whom he has a crush on if she will accompany him to a party, he can’t turn down the opportunity, and slowly he realizes that there might be other things that he needs to remedy besides his addiction to cigarettes, such as his shaky relationship with his younger sister and his lack of appreciation for all the sacrifices his mother made over the years.
While Box Office Poison focuses on a brightly colored canopy of characters, Too Cool to Be Forgotten is narrated from the mind of one character, Andy. Through him, Robinson does a great job of showing how multi-layered one’s person-to-person relations can be and how little one truly knows about his or her fellow man. However, Robinson also shows a darker side of personal perspective, showing how an individual’s memory can be quite selective about what it remembers and how the things that are forgotten or repressed are the things that truly should be remembered.
Robinson’s artwork is minimal and the character designs are rather simple, but through them he is able to convey emotion quite well, such as depictions of Andy’s anger which can make the character’s simple design balloon into humorously cartoony proportions. Fans of Daniel Clowes or Peter Bagge might, however, find his art renderings to be a bit dull. Where Robinson’s art truly shines is within the beings of his characters. Not one to make idealized stereotypes of jocks, cheerleaders, and prototypical nerds in comic form, Robinson’s characters suffer from frizzy hair, pimples, and other traits which truly make the individuals unique in this imperfect world. His works are full of the individuals that most of us know and went to high school with as well.
Too Cool to Be Forgotten makes for a fun, quick read that might make the reader shed a tear or two for days now passed. It can remind the reader of missed opportunities of possible action and things that could have been said but never were.